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Entries in Obesity (4)

Saturday
May262012

Airbus to Offer Extra-Wide Seats on New Planes

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images(BLAGNAC, France) -- Airbus is trying to make the friendly skies a bit more comfortable for large -- and encumbered -- people, and more profitable for U.S. airlines.

The main subsidiary of European aerospace giant Eads is now offering extra-wide seats on its new A320 passenger aircraft, according to Agence-France Presse.

Each A320 jet will now offer two 20-inch-wide seats on each side of the aisle, rather than three of its standard 18-inch-wide seats. Boeing, Airbus’ U.S. rival, has 17-inch-wide seats on its 737s.

Airbus said that if U.S. airlines charged extra for the roomier seats, they could make as much as $3 million extra during a 15-year period.

Zuzana Hrnkova, Airbus’ aircraft interiors director, told reporters that the new seats were not just for overweight fliers.

“Mothers with children may be ready to pay a little more in order to be able to keep their babies in their laps,” Hrnkova said, according to AFP. “Large football players may be interested.”

Airbus’ announcement is timely. Obesity rates are on the rise. About 34 percent of adults are currently obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number is expected to hit 42 percent by 2030.

And this month an overweight passenger who said in May 2011 a Southwest gate agent had told her she was “too fat to fly” is now suing the company for discrimination.

Brandon Macsata, an advocate for passengers’ rights and a leader in the “fat acceptance” movement, told ABC News earlier this month that his group had proposed airlines providing a row of extra-wide eats for larger passengers at a higher price, which they could buy voluntarily.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May032012

'Too Fat To Fly' Passenger Sues Southwest Airlines For 'Discriminatory Actions'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Kenlie Tiggeman, the overweight passenger who garnered national attention last May after she claimed a Southwest gate agent told her she was "too fat to fly," is now suing the airline.

Tiggeman, who lives in New Orleans and blogs about weight loss on her website, AllTheWeigh.com, filed an injunction against Southwest in district court on April 20, alleging that the Southwest agents "did not follow their company policy and chose to discriminate, humiliate and embarrass" her in front of "airport onlookers," and that the airline uses "discriminatory actions...toward obese customers."

Southwest currently has a Customers of Size policy, which requires passengers to buy a second seat if they can't fit between the armrests. Southwest's seats measure 17 inches across.

Tiggeman said she is not seeking monetary damages from the airline and filed the injunction application pro se, without legal representation. She said she wants an industry standard to be put in place for flyers who have to buy a second seat, including rules so that it is no longer up to gate attendants to decide whether or not an obese passenger has to purchase a second seat.

"If you're telling me I have to buy two seats, you should tell me at the point of purchase, not the day I'm flying when I check in at the terminal," she said.

Tiggeman said she was horrified last May when a Southwest Airlines gate agent told her to buy a second seat.

"The gate agent came up to me and he asked me how much I weighed, what size clothes I wore," Tiggeman said. "He said that I was too fat to fly, that I would need an additional seat, and he was really sort of crass about the whole thing."

At the time, Tiggeman said she weighed between "240 and 300 pounds."

"There was no privacy," she continued. "He didn't know what the policy was. So he actually brought in a supervisor as well who didn't know."

After the incident, Tiggeman said a Southwest executive contacted her to apologize, refunded her ticket and offered her flight vouchers, which she accepted. But last November, Tiggeman said she was again told by a Southwest agent that she was too fat to fly.

In a statement to Nightline, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said she was aware of Tiggeman's blog post describing the suit, but hadn't confirmed the filing with the airline's legal department.

Tiggeman's crusade is just a small part in what feels like a war that has erupted between the airlines and their passengers. Many charge for everything from onboard snacks, to blankets and pillows, to excess baggage and body weight. Just Thursday, Spirit Airlines announced that passengers may have to pay up to $100 for a carry-on, meaning bags that have to go in the overhead compartment and are checked in at the gate. Bags that can fit under the seat are still free.

But if you weigh more, should you pay more? Peter Singer, a bio-ethics professor at Princeton University, raised this simple but inflammatory question.

"It's not about treating obese people badly," he said. "It's about people paying for the costs that they are imposing on the airline or in general."

Singer is a mega-commuter, flying from his home in Melbourne, Australia, to the States. He thinks that on a flight from, say, Melbourne to New York, an obese person should face a roughly $30 surcharge.

"The airline is just one example that I've chosen," Singer said. "Buses and trains may have to provide wider seats. Hospitals have to have stronger beds, even having to have extra-large refrigerators for their morgues. So it's not hostility to obesity. It's just saying, where people are paying, why should other people who are lighter be subsidizing those who are heavier?"

Pressing forward with her lawsuit, Kenlie Tiggeman said she is not an advocate for obesity, but wants to be treated with respect.

"Shaming people isn't the right way to do it, then you'll just have a lot of depressed people," she said. "I don't care if I have to pay more, just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

Obese Customer Sues White Castle over Small Seats

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A nearly 300-pound New York man has filed a lawsuit against White Castle, claiming the fast food restaurant went back on a two-year-old promise to enlarge its seats to help customers of his size.

Martin Kessman tells The New York Post the restaurant's executives promised renovations that never came to be.

"They sent me specs...about how the booths were going to enlarged," Kessman tells the paper, noting he's able to fit in the seats of other fast food joints, and on airplanes.  "They're stationary booths.  I'm not humongous, [but] I'm a big guy.  I could not wedge myself in."

It was an uncomfortable visit to a White Castle in Nanuet, New Jersey in 2009 that prompted Kessman to send an angry letter to the company, which netted him some coupons for free hamburgers -- which he redeemed.

"But the cheese was extra," he noted.

Kessman is seeking the renovations and unspecified damages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct082010

Obesity Costs Employers Billions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DURHAM, N.C.) -- Obese Americans have increased the cost of health care, according to recent studies, but the doctor's office isn't the only place where obesity ups expenses: The workplace is another. Research released Friday by Duke University found the cost to employers of obesity among full-time employees was $73.1 billion a year.

Using survey data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey, the Duke researchers estimated the extent to which obesity-related health problems affected absenteeism, work productivity and medical costs.

While previous estimates looked mainly at the direct health care costs of obesity, lead researcher Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, and his colleagues found that "presenteeism," or the lost productivity incurred when employees try to work despite health problems, cost employers a whopping $12.1 billion per year, nearly twice as much as their medical costs.

Presenteeism was also the biggest cost among employees of healthy weight, but researchers found that obese workers accounted for a disproportionately larger share of overall presenteeism, absenteeism and medical expenses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the yearly medical costs of obesity are estimated at $147 billion, a figure that has ballooned of late, growing by more than 80 percent over a five-year period, recent studies found.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio